Kool Kids Passaic creates art from the heart

Kool Kids Passaic creates art from the heart

Young Kool Kids Passaic artists at work.
Young Kool Kids Passaic artists at work.

How cool is it to create your own art and have it professionally displayed and sold?

Very cool or, shall we say, very Kool.

A recent art show of imaginative and creative work of Kool Kids Passaic, a Jewish community organization for boys and girls and young women with disabilities in the Passaic/Clifton area, was recently mounted by the group to display the work by these young artists and to raise funds for the volunteer-staffed organization.

Founded in 2016 by three certified special education teachers — Sharon Sommer, Chani Twersky, Gittel Mandel — Kool Kids serves about 40 youngsters offering them after-school activities, trips on legal holidays, athletic opportunities like playing on a baseball league, and overnight Shabbatons.

Most especially, Kool Kids has helped its members forge new friendships with other “kids in the neighborhood.”

“We saw the need for a program that was outside of school where they can socialize in the neighborhood and have playdates, enrichment and social opportunities after school hours just like typically developed students may have,” said Ms. Sommer, who works as an elementary teacher in Ben Porat Yosef.

Many of these youngsters attend schools both public and private that are not in the neighborhood and far away from home. Kool Kids gives them a great opportunity to befriend youngsters who live within their proximity.

Kool Kids Passaic has been partnering with Bear Givers EmpowerART Program, a New York non-profit that empowers children with special needs and in hospitals to create art. The organization was a sponsor of the art show, as was the hedge fund Crawford Lake Capital Management.

Crawford Lake Capital Management president Jeff Schachter, himself a father to a child with special needs, said the organization plays a very essential role to the growth of the children who attend Kool Kids.

“As a parent of a child with special needs, it’s important to for them to engage in activities such as painting to enhance their self-esteem,” said Mr. Schachter.

Art is an important form of self-expression for the youngsters of Kool Kids and participating in the art show builds their self-esteem and sense of empowerment, said Ms. Sommer. It also gives them a chance to give back. When they sell their work, the money goes right back into Kool Kids. It is very empowering to be on the side of giving, and not just receiving.

Both the youngsters and parents have very much benefitted from Kool Kids.

For example, witnessing budding friendships, Ms. Sommer said, there are girls who may not have verbal skills, but will share their affection with one another by putting their arms around each other.

As for the parents of Kool Kids, Ms. Sommer said, “They are very grateful for the social opportunity for their children and for the activities that are offered after school.”

Sounds Kool.

Visit www.koolkidspassaic.com for more information.

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